Whether they originate in another era, another country or another language, few of the phrases we use today are original to us. Take this quiz to find out how well you know the origins of these phrases.
We know that the phrase "bite the bullet" means to suck it up, but can you guess what prompted the use of the phrase?
Patients used to bite down on a bullet to distract them from pain
In the early days before anesthesia, sometimes during battle, a patient might be given a bullet to bite down on to distract him from pain. It didn't really work.
Showmen used to try to bite a bullet that was shot at them
Biting a bullet was a way to get the gunpowder out
"Bite the bullet" was an expression meant to denote someone getting shot
The expression "cat got your tongue" has nothing to do with felines, but which other "cat"?
Some say the origin comes from punishment. The British Navy used the cat-o'-nine-tails as a way to whip insubordinates into shape. This cat whip was so painful, its victims were rendered (temporarily) silent.
Someone who is "mad as a hatter" might be from 17th century ______.
One theory involves hatmakers in the 1600s Hats were made with mercury, which was poisonous - symptoms of mercury poisoning include shaking and irritability. And you thought it was from "Alice in Wonderland."
The phrase "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" has what murky origins?
Babies bathing in dirty water
Back when folks didn't bathe very often, an entire family would bathe using the same basin of water, oldest to youngest. By the time the babies were bathed, the water was so dirty, mom and dad might not notice that baby was in the basin before tossing the contents out a window.
Someone who "gets your goat" is likely to be irritating. But where did this equine phrase originate?
Interestingly, placing a goat in the stall with a nervous horse serves to calm the horse. Before a race, if an opponent wanted a horse to lose, he would steal the goat, causing the horse to become irritated.
If your "ears are burning," you know someone is talking about you. This ancient phrase has its roots in what culture?
In ancient Rome, people had a tendency to assign meaning to physical manifestations. Interestingly only a tingling/burning of the right ear meant someone was speaking well of you. If it was the left ear, better watch out for trouble.